LONDON (Reuters) - West Ham United midfielder Manuel Lanzini is playing a key role in his team’s recovery from a poor start to the Premier League and hopes his form will earn him a chance to play for Argentina.
Lanzini, showing the same sharpness that put him in scoring positions at River Plate back home, struck a fine winner for a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday to lift his side out of the relegation zone.
Coach Slaven Bilic’s tactics with three central defenders and two wing backs paid off after a woeful early season that yielded a solitary 1-0 win at home to Bournemouth nearly two months ago and just one point from their previous five matches.
“(Bilic) always tells me more than anything to play, to make the team play and get into scoring positions, as well and to defend,” Lanzini told Reuters in an interview.
”He always tries to give me the confidence to score.
“He congratulated me, he has a lot of faith in me and I have a lot of faith in him.
“Luckily I was able to score so I’m happy for the team, we needed this victory.”
West Ham, who host Sunderland next, have struggled to settle at their new Olympic stadium home in east London after finishing a creditable seventh last season, their last at Upton Park.
“We’ll have to get used to playing (at the new home), but we must continue on this path, I think we’ll be better and let’s hope this is the start of something good,” added the 23-year-old.
Lanzini was injured in a warm-up for the Rio Olympics in August and missed the tournament where Argentina crashed out of the group round.
“It was a shame to (miss the Olympics), I would have loved to have gone, it was a very important tournament for me,” he said.
”Now I’m getting over that and will try to get there again.
“It’s something I always think about, it’s my dream to play in the national team, I’d love to but I know that this way, doing things well, I can get to have a chance and be there.”
Lanzini follows the Argentina team closely and watched them manage only two points from their last three outings, all without captain Lionel Messi.
Although Lanzini would love to help, he believes the best players are in coach Edgardo Bauza’s squad already and that they would turn things around in their remaining eight qualifiers.
“There are very good players (in the squad), the majority stars in their (club) teams, it’s a poor spell they are going through but I think they’ll move forward with work and sacrifice,” he said.
Argentina come up next against arch-rivals Brazil, who are on a run of four wins after putting their faith in half the young team that won the Olympic gold.
“They have the confidence of the coach and winning the gold medal also gives you confidence,” said Lanzini.
”I think Argentina has to think about Argentina and improve their performance.”
Editing by Ian Ransom